The digital ad industry went into a collective meltdown over news that Safari, Apple, and Chrome were making moves to integrate ad-blocking technology. Indeed, ad blocking is already impacting companies throughout the ecosystem, with Criteo most recently forecasting a 9-13% negative impact on its 2018 revenue due to Apple’s changes.

To be sure, ad blocking isn’t some new phenomenon. Consumers aren’t thrilled to have ad tech companies track their moves and sell their data to advertisers. Globally, some 615 million devices installed ad blockers by the end of 2016, with 62% of those on mobile, according to a study by PageFair. Asia-Pacific is the largest geographical driver of mobile ad blockers, where 94% of ad blocking takes place.

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Another study from Kantar Millward Brown found that 78% Asia-Pacific consumers are seeing more ads compared to three years ago with a further 61% saying that ads have become more intrusive.

In my view, ad blocking is a symptom of a larger problem that stems from poorly optimized ads, resulting in poor user experiences and irrelevant ads.  Far from being a solution, ad-blocking simply highlights the need to evolve the way ads are created, delivered and experienced by audiences. Both the studies reinforce this.

So, how do we tackle this complex reality?

Let’s go back to basics. The purpose of advertising has always been to reach the right person, at the right time, with the right message. Having said that, there’s a strong demand for innovation and experimentation, too.

In order to do this well, ad tech companies, agencies, and advertisers need to understand where people are spending their time and their broader motivations.

The video gaming industry has taken steps to address this and flipped the dynamic between the content provider and consumer. The concept revolves around rewarding consumers for their attention and making the experience more interactive by rewarding additional in-game currency or items for watching an ad or making ads an interactive mini-game while the main game loads.

The idea is gaining traction within the industry but is still far from being mainstream. In the meantime, there are other ways to better engage and interact with consumers.

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The IAB Tech Lab has already taken the first step with the LEAN Ads Program. LEAN, an acronym for Light, Encrypted, AdChoices supported, Non-invasive ads, is a guideline for advertising standards that aim to boost user experiences around ads, regardless of platform.

The LEAN ads program looks to tackle some of the major issues that users are currently experiencing, addressing bloated ads that demand large amounts of data and invasiveness, which often leads to difficult or blocked access to content. Concerns about privacy and transparency are also being elevated through AdChoice support and encryption.

For the advertising industry to move forward, a concerted effort is required to fully adopt the guidelines suggested by the IAB. In the longer term, industry players need to take a leaf out of gaming industry and work together to develop, engaging, two-way interactions with consumers.